Miller, A. L., Roughan, J. V. 2021. Welfare assessment, end-point refinement and the effects of non-aversive handling in C57BL/6 mice with Lewis lung cancer. Animals 12(1), 23.
Cancer-bearing mice are at risk of developing anxiety, pain, or malaise. These conditions may not only harm welfare but could also undermine data quality and translational validity in studies to develop therapeutic interventions. We aimed to establish whether, or at what point mice developing lung cancer show these symptoms, what measures can best detect their onset, and if data quality and animal welfare can be enhanced by using non-aversive handling (NAH). Welfare was monitored using various daily methods. At the beginning and end of the study, we also scored behaviour for general welfare evaluation, recorded nociceptive thresholds, and applied the mouse grimace scale (MGS). Cancer caused a decline in daily welfare parameters (body weight, and food and water consumption) beginning at around 4 days prior to euthanasia. As cancer progressed, rearing and walking declined to a greater extent in cancer-bearing versus control mice, while grooming, inactive periods, and MGS scores increased. A decline in nest building capability and food consumption provided a particularly effective means of detecting deteriorating welfare. These changes suggested a welfare problem arose as cancer developed, so similar studies would benefit from refinement, with mice being removed from the study at least 4 days earlier. However, the problem of highly varied tumour growth made it difficult to determine this time-point accurately. There were no detectable beneficial effects of NAH on either data quality or in terms of enhanced welfare.